Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Printer Friendly

Media advisory: Jonathan M. Green scheduled for execution

On Oct. 9, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the stay granted by a Houston U.S. district court.

On Oct. 8, 2012, a Houston U.S. district court stayed the execution of Jonathan M. Green and granted him a hearing on his competency.

AUSTIN – Pursuant to a court order by the 221st Criminal District Court in Montgomery County, Jonathan Marcus Green is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on October 10, 2012.

In July 2002, Green was convicted and sentenced to death by a Montgomery County jury for the capital murder of Christina Neal.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, described the murder of Christina Neal as follows:

The evidence established that on the evening of June 21, 2000, 12 year old Christina Neal and her sister Victoria went to visit their friend Maria. Christina and Victoria had a fight and Christina left. When she had not returned home by the next morning, Victoria went looking for her and found her broken glasses by the side of the road. Family, friends, neighbors and police searched for Christina over the next two days. During the search, Victoria found Christina’s bracelet and necklace near a pathway in the woods near the Neal home, and Christina’s other sister, Jennifer, and her mother found some pink underwear that they thought might belong to Christina.

FBI Special Agent Justin Fox interviewed Green as part of his investigation of Christina’s disappearance. He showed Green a picture of Christina and asked for permission to search his house. Green stated that he had seen Christina before but denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, her disappearance. Green consented to a search of his home as long as he could be present. Police conducted a brief search of the interior and perimeter of Green’s house and found nothing significant.

Several days later, Fox again spoke to Green on a dirt road about 100 yards from Green’s house. Green offered an alibi and again denied any knowledge of Christina’s disappearance.

Fox and Detective Don Gay of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department spoke to Green on a third occasion at Green’s house. This third meeting was prompted by a statement to police by Manuel Jimenez, Victoria Neal’s boyfriend and Green’s next door neighbor, that he remembered a big fire on Green’s property the day after Christina disappeared. Fox wanted to search the burn pile area and Green consented to the search. Fox and Gay then left, and an evidence response team led by FBI Special Agent Mark Young searched the area. A short while later, Special Agent Young told them that Green had withdrawn his consent to search after the evidence response team used a probe to check beneath the soil. The initial probe indicated that the ground had recently been dug up, and released an odor of decaying flesh.

Fox, Gay, Young and Special Agent Sue Hillard then sought and obtained a search warrant for Green’s property. When they returned to the property to execute the warrant, they discovered that the burn pile had been dug up to reveal what Fox described as a shallow grave, about six feet long, three feet wide, and several feet deep. There was a foul odor emanating from the grave. Green admitted that he dug up the burn pile, claiming that he only removed trash and that he did so to show the FBI that there was no body there. Fox testified that there was more trash piled on the hole than had been there when Green originally consented to the search. Green also had changed clothes in the interim.

Agent Hillard testified that, after discovering that Green had dug up the burn pile, the FBI called for a cadaver dog – a dog trained to find human remains. The dog was brought to the site, and Hillard and the dog handler entered Green’s house with the dog. The dog started indicating near a chair. Agent Hillard looked over the back of the chair with a flashlight and saw a human foot sticking out of a bag.

Agent Young overheard Green tell another person that some unidentified Mexicans were “setting him up” by placing a body in his house. Young testified that when Green made this statement, no one had yet told him that the police found a body in his house. The body was Christina Neal’s.

Police recovered burned remnants of Christina’s clothing and personal effects from the burn pile on Green’s property. They also found ligatures on her neck and wrists.

DNA testing revealed that a hair recovered from Christina…matched Green and did not match Christina. An autopsy revealed bruising to the front and back of Christina’s neck. Along with the ligatures found with Christina’s body, this bruising led the medical examiner to the conclusion that Christina was strangled to death. The medical examiner also discovered bruising to Christina’s upper left thigh [and pelvic region]. The medical examiner testified that these kinds of injuries are very common on sexual assault victims. Fibers recovered from the hole in Green’s backyard matched fibers found on Green’s clothing. Other fibers recovered from the hole [in Green’s backyard] matched fibers recovered from the bag in which the police found Christina’s body, and the ligatures. Fibers from the carpet in Green’s house matched fibers recovered from her underwear and on a piece of cloth found in Christina’s mouth. The defense called no witnesses. The jury found Green guilty of capital murder for murdering Christina Neal during the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping or aggravated sexual assault.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Green was indicted for intentionally causing the death of Christina Neal by strangulation, while in the course of committing or attempting to commit the offense of kidnapping or the aggravated sexual assault of Neal.

On July 17, 2002, a Montgomery County jury found that there is a reasonable probability that Green will commit future criminal acts of violence constituting a continuing threat to society, and that there was insufficient mitigating evidence to justify a sentence of life imprisonment. Accordingly, the trial court sentenced Green to death.

On December 1, 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Green’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal.

On March 23, 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also denied Green’s state application for a writ of habeas corpus.

On March 6, 2006, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review of the direct appeal.

On February 15, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, denied Green’s federal application for a writ of habeas corpus and denied a certificate of appealability.

On February 27, 2009, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied a certificate of appealability.

On October 5, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review of the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

An execution date was set for June 30, 2010. On June 23, Green filed a subsequent application for writ of habeas corpus in the state court on grounds that he was incompetent to be executed. On June 28, the trial court held a hearing and found Green competent. However, the Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his execution to review the trial court’s determination.

On June 27, 2012, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals lifted the stay of execution and affirmed the trial court’s finding of competency.

On Sept. 28, 2012, Green filed a motion in U.S. district court asking for a stay of execution.


PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.

During the penalty phase of Green’s trial the State presented evidence that Green:

• committed two prior sexual assaults;
• stole a pony from a nearby petting zoo and stabbed it to death;
• had a misdemeanor conviction for unlawfully carrying a weapon;
• while incarcerated in the Montgomery County jail awaiting trial for capital murder, threatened to assault an officer for taking a toothbrush and bowl of food from him;
• threatened another inmate asserting that he “would make his heart stop”;
• threatened a deputy because he would not give him a second glass of juice;
• assaulted and robbed another inmate, slamming the other inmate’s head against a wall in the process; and
• had a violent encounter with one of his jailers, requiring five or six officers to subdue Green on that occasion.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.